Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Upper Peninsula Upventure: Keweenaw National Historical Park, Calumet

The people of Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula realized they had something unique. For more than a century, mining companies were established there to excavate the largest deposit of pure copper in the world.

But by 1968, its last mine closed, and in 1995 the last copper mine on Michigan's Upper Peninsula was shuttered.

Taking their cue from Massachusetts' Lowell National Historical Park, the Keweenaw National Historical Park was established in 1992.

There are two units of the park, Calumet, which I'll focus on today, and Quincy, which I'll cover next.

Once known as Red Jacket, the town of Calumet was largely a creation of the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company.

Like other mining firms in the region, C&H was a paternalistic company, and it often donated land for churches and community organizations, and built a hospital for the town.

But children sometimes rebel against their parents--and those tough miners certainly didn't view themselves as kids, which led to a bitter 1913 strike that dragged into early 1914. The issue was C&H's move to cut labor costs, replacing a two man drill with one that could be operated by one man. A Christmas Eve false-alarm fire tragedy led to the death of 74 people, mostly children, at an Italian social hall, and the intensity of the strike petered out. Both sides made concessions, but C&H was the clear victor in that struggle.

Calumet was an amalgam of nationalities: Besides Italians, many Cornish, French Canadian, Finnish, Scottish, Croatian, Irish, and Slovenians toiled in the copper mines.

Many of the buildings of Calumet were built with Lake Superior brownstone, which as you can see from the pictures, gives Calumet a New England feel.

My morning on the Keweenaw Peninsula was quite dicey, weather-wise, which is why I started my day at the Coppertown USA Museum, which is located within the borders of the park.

Keweenaw was the favorite part of my Upper Peninsula Upventure--I could have spent several days there, but I had other points on the U.P. may on my agenda.

I'll have to return, since there are spots I missed, including the Delaware Mine.

But I did make it to the Quincy Mine, which will be the subject of my next post.

Earlier posts:

A brief history of copper mining
Calumet, Michigan's St. Paul the Apostle Church
Finland, Finland, Finland
Escanaba's Sand Point Lighthouse
Manistique East Breakwater Light
Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse
Wawatam Lighthouse
Whitefish Point Light
The Munising Front Range Light
Grand Island East Harbor Lighthouse
Copper Harbor Lighthouse
Eagle Harbor Lighthouse

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